Summary: The healing of Naaman is replete with strange incidents, which are there to make us think out of the box.
Story: My old Chaplain (when Maddy and I were in Basle) Tom Roberts used to say that when you are stumped for a Bible passage to preach on - use the story of Naaman.
And for many of you who have gone to Sunday school, it is a very familiar and much loved story.
But the more I thought about it last Friday night, the more I realised how full it is of STRANGE incidents
-incidents that would have run countercultural to the thinking of the original audience of the book of 2 Kings - God’s chosen people Jews.
It is so full of strange incidents that you might be tempted to think that it is a fictional story rather than history.
Except for the fact that Jesus vouches for its authenticity in Lk 4, when he said
“And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time
of Elisha the prophet yet not one of them was cleansed –
only Naaman the Syrian”. (Luke 4:27)
As that great detective Sherlock Holmes is reputed to have said,
"Eliminate the obvious and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer."
(The Supreme Court and Constitutional Theory by Ronald Kahn. 1994.)
The incidents are so strange that we need to think out of the box if we are going to understand them.
Let’s look at some of them.
1. Strange Incident no 1. - God gave Naaman success
The story opens with a curious statement
5 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram.
The Jews, they were God’s chosen people – so it would have grated to hear that God gave victory to their enemies - the Arameans
Why did God bless the Arameans and not them?
The Jews at the time were living in a time of general apostasy.
They were not acting as God’s special people.
They mixed in worship of false Gods with the worship of the one true God.
What can we learn from this:
If we don’t walk with God – we cannot expect his blessing on us.
Indeed God may even bring judgement on his people if they cease walking with him
2. Strange Incident No 2 is the witness of the little girl
We read :
2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.
3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.
5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.
6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
This is one of the weirdest parts of the story
Have you ever thought why did Naaman and then his boss the Aramean King not only listen to - but act on the little girl’s report
Here was an insignificant servant girl – a slave dictating Aramean state policy.
Surely that is impossible?
No, not if you put God INTO the equation.
If there is a real hero to the story – it is that little girl.
And we don’t even know her name.
But there must have been something special about her – for Naaman to listen.
I think there are two characteristics of her life that I think are attractive.
2. 1. The first characteristic about the young girl was that she didn’t seem to get bitter about her captivity
As a young Jewish girl, captured and taken away from family and friends by the Arameans on a raid into Israel, she could have thought: “The only good Aramean is a dead one”.
And it would have been fair enough for her to think that about Naaman - who had been a successful general against her own people and who kept her in captivity.
But she didn’t - quite the contrary.
She was concerned enough for Naaman to stick her neck out and offer a solution to his plight.
2.2 The second characteristic about the young girl was that there must have been something about her character that made her trustworthy
I am guessing here - but why else would Naaman’s wife have listened to the young girl and then bothered to tell Naaman?